Thursday, 29 September 2011

Thinking Thursday: Scripture Encouragement

Since my stroke, there have been certain scriptures which really spoke to me and encouraged me. The first one, which I have shared before, was Philippians 4:7 'And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.' During my stroke, I found I was not scared at all, but rested at peace in God's arms.

To go with that scripture, I later found Psalm 34:4 'I sought the Lord, and he answered; he delivered me from all my fears.' And my recovery prayer was summed up by Hebrews 12:12-13 'Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.'

Now God has blessed me again through scripture. On our church weekend away we had teaching from Chris Matthews from Linden Christian Fellowship. He shared two things in particular which struck home with me.

He told a moving story about a young boy playing 'chopsticks' on a piano and a master pianist reaching either side of him and playing a beautiful piece woven around the boy's simple tune. He reminded us of the story of the five loaves and two fishes that Jesus used to feed more than five thousand people. God can take our seemingly inadequate skills and make something great with them. This was confirmation to me that I can indeed make a contribution at church, even with my limitations.

The other things he shared that helped me was the scripture Psalm 73:26 'My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.' My flesh has failed, in that my stroke has left me disabled, and it would be easy for my heart to fail in the face of the obstacles that present themselves. God has been my strength, although I have not thought of it in those terms before.

As I strive to recover and master my walking in particular, I must not get downhearted and must remember that God is the strength of my heart, and I must lean on him and trust him. Isn't God good!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Thinking Thursday: Context

If I told you a story about a family who saw soldiers marching through their town, you wouldn't know how to react to it, or what to expect unless you knew the context. Were they Jews in Poland during World War Two seeing German soldiers invading? Were they a modern family living in Wootton Bassett watching soldiers escorting the body of a dead comrade? Were they a Victorian family watching a parade of soldiers in dress uniform at a formal celebration? So should you feel fear, sadness or pride as I tell the story?

When you read a scripture, how do you know how to respond to it unless you know the context? So many of the criticisms levelled at the Bible, especially by non-believers, are of things that have been taken out of context. So many difficulties that believers have with parts of the Bible are resolved or partly explained by looking at the context.

For example, one that is often used is James 2:17 'In the same way faith, by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.' This is used to 'prove' that you have to do good works in order to get into heaven. The answer is only three verses earlier: James 2:14 'What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?' It is the quality of his faith which saves him, but that kind of faith shows itself in good works.

Here is another example. 1 Sam.15:2-3 'This is what the Lord Almighty says: "I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'''

This is one of those passages used to criticise God as cruel and vindictive. To modern eyes, we are horrified that God would destroy a whole nation. But what did the Amalekites do to incur God's wrath? Deut.25:17-19 'Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the Lord God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!'

The problems with the Amalekites continued. Judges 6:3-4 'Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys.' God left the Amalekites a long time, but they did not change in their animosity to Israel. They killed Israelite men, women, children, crops and herds. God's judgement makes more sense in that context.

Sometimes, we have to look a little further in the Bible for the explanation, which is why it pays to spend more time reading the Bible and getting familiar with what it says. There is always an explanation. Sometimes we have to search for it, sometimes it is in the very next verse.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Scribbling Saturday: Kestrel - Final Edit

Well, I've written a fair bit on here about my science fiction novel Flight of the Kestrel 1: Intruders. I have been writing it on and off for some years now. I am just completing the last edit on screen and next week I will be printing it out for the final check before I submit it to the Mslexia Novel Competition.

The competition closes on 30th September, so there isn't much time left. I really can't think of anything else to do with it. I'm all out of creativity. I just hope I don't find any glaring errors in the final read-through.

I'm getting to know my main characters quite well now, and have discovered some unexpected things about them. I hope they are now much more well rounded than the cardboard characters they started out as. There are already two subsequent novels about the Kestrel, but I have put them away until the first one is finished, as I need to know where my characters get to by the end of book one before I can take them onward.

So wish me luck, and here I go!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Thinking Thursday: Echoes of a Saviour

Gen.22:1-19 The Sacrifice of Isaac

The story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his son has many echoes of God's sacrifice of His Son many centuries later.

v2 Echoes of a Saviour's sacrifice

He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I shall tell you."

Isaac had been born as the result of God's promise to Abraham and Sarah, when they were already elderly. Along with the promise of a son, God had also promised Abraham that his descendents would be as numerous as the sand on the shore and a blessing to all nations. Suddenly God asks Abraham to sacrifice this very son of promise. It is a sacrifice not only of a beloved son, but the foundation of the blessing.

v6-8 Echoes of a Saviour's provision

And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said "Here am I, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son."

It would not have been unusual for them to travel to a high place and offer sacrifices to God. But they would have taken the sacrificial lamb with them. Isaac's innocent question led Abraham to 'fudge' an answer which turned out to be prophetic. God would indeed provide the lamb, not only for Isaac, but one day for the whole world.

v9-10 Echoes of a Saviour's willing sacrifice

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.

The amazing event at the centre of this story shows incredible trust on the part of both Abraham and Isaac. I find it astonishing that Isaac does not question his father when he binds him, lays him on the altar, and moves to sacrifice him. And Abraham shows such faith in God, that as He was faithful over His promise of Isaac, so He will be faithful over his promise of descendents, even if Isaac dies. Isaac is willing to die, and Abraham is willing to sacrifice him. In the future God's own Son would suffer and die willingly for the sake of all mankind.

v11-13 Echoes of a Saviour's perfect sacrifice in our place

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.

Having shown his faithfulness, Abraham doesn't have to sacrifice Isaac. God does indeed provide the sacrifice as Abraham had said. The account particularly points out that the ram was caught in the thicket by his horns – he was unblemished, not injured in any way. The sacrifice of God's Son was powerful enough to save the whole world because He was pure and unblemished by sin. God gave His only Son to satisfy justice in our place.

Often Christians are challenged to give way to other faiths and accept them as valid alternative lifestyles. Scripture's response to why we cannot accept other religions & philosophies is because of what it cost God to provide the way. Abraham did not have to sacrifice his son in the end. Jesus went through to the bitter end to bring us the freedom that could not be gained in any other way.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Scribbling Saturday: So Much To Do

Suddenly I have a lot to write. I hope I can get it all done. I don't like deadlines.

First, I was asked by the Stroke Nurse to write about my stroke recovery, good and bad, to help them plan future care. Then I was asked to write my testimony for the church magazine.

Yesterday I met with some people who are going to help get my historical  biography of Alina de Breos published. And I am in the middle of my final edit of my science fiction novel Flight of the Kestrel 1: Intruders, before I submit it for the Mslexia Novel Competition.

So excuse me if I'm not around much for the next couple of weeks!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Thinking Thursday: Blessed Are The Meek

Gentle Jesus meek and mild
But was it a meek man who threw the traders out of the temple?

Was it showing meekness to compare the Pharisees with whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones?

Was it demonstrating submissiveness to break the law by forgiving sins, gathering food on the Sabbath, or mingling with sinners?

Was it meek to fight injustice, to stand up for the poor and disenfranchised?


He was meek when they abused him, when they whipped him, when they led him to the cross. At this, the greatest injustice in history, the one man who had a right to say, ‘No, stop, this isn’t fair,’ took the punishment.

Not my will but yours

A rallying call to God’s children.

The meek fight battles for those who can’t

stand side by side with the outcast

wash the feet of the dirty

shed tears for the fatherless

defend the unlovely

care for the lost.

The meek are not downtrodden but strong

Not submissive but clear of vision

Not passive but passionate

The meek don’t take unfairness lying down

But take their stand with

Gentle Jesus meek and mild

[Liz Hinds April 2011]